Good morning. It’s November 8th, and yes, we’ll be back on Lucy’s mission again. NASA Share some additional information About an asteroid flying by us last week, and there’s more goodness to share.
A few days ago, the Daily Telescope reported that the Lucy spacecraft had found not one, but two, asteroids while flying by the main small Dinkenish asteroid belt. It turns out that wasn’t the whole story. Subsequent data sent from the spacecraft revealed that the smaller of the two asteroids is a contact binary — two smaller asteroids in contact with each other.
Scientists are, to put it mildly, very excited.
“Connecting binaries appear to be fairly common in the solar system,” said Lucy deputy project scientist John Spencer, of the Boulder, Colorado, branch of the San Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute. “We haven’t seen many of them up close, and we’ve never seen one orbiting another asteroid. We were puzzled by the strange differences in Dinkenish’s brightness that we saw on approach, which gave us a hint that Dinkenish might have a moon. Sort of, but we didn’t We never suspect anything too strange!”
You could say they’re over the moon, but in reality, Lucy is far from the moon. However, the spacecraft is heading back toward Earth for gravitational assistance next year. This flyby will propel the spacecraft back through the main asteroid belt, where it will observe the Donald Johansson asteroid in 2025 and then to the Trojan asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit in 2027.
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